The station has a chequered history since its construction in the 1860s to serve Kent and the South East of England, and it was built in direct competition with services into Charing Cross Station. Ironically, it’s now part of a triangle of stations with Charing Cross and London Bridge stations where trains interconnect. The attraction of building a station here was its proximity to Mansion House and the Bank of England.
To enable the station to operate, a new bridge crossing the Thames was needed, and following the completion of Cannon Street Railway Bridge, the station opened in 1866.
Network Rail manages the station, and at the time of my visit, Southeastern Rail was the sole rail operator. However, on the 28th of September 2021, the British Government withdrew Southeastern’s franchise with services now provided by the Operator of Last Resort. There should be no impact on commuter services, but only time will tell.
And of course, this modern view of the station’s entrance is a testament to the unrelenting work by all NHS workers supporting the people of Britain through the Covid pandemic. This display is on the steps leading into the station, so travellers approaching the station can’t miss it.
I have a personal thanks for the NHS too, as not long after visiting the station, I spent my afternoon at the local hospital after a careless accident whilst gardening. Ouch, but all mended now with another scar to add to the collection.
From the 10th century to the end of the 16th century, the station’s land was the site of the medieval Hanseatic steelyard. The Hanseatic League had a walled enclave in London where they traded independently and were exempt from taxes. This exemption all came to a swift end in 1598 when Queen Elizabeth rescinded these privileges as they operated in direct competition with the City of London’s merchants. Many of the steelyard’s buildings didn’t survive the Great Fire of London.
A 7 foot tall Plumber’s Apprentice statue stands on the station’s concourse in commemoration of The Worshipful Company of Plumbers last Livery Hall. The Livery Hall was demolished during the station’s most recent redevelopment earlier this century. The statue celebrates the 400th anniversary of granting the Worshipful’s Company Charter by King James I in 1611. It also recognises the support given by the Company to the training of apprentices. It is now known for its charitable work.
Considerable redevelopment has taken place over the last 40 years since the property boom of the 1980s. Old buildings were demolished and new ones built in their place, and newish buildings extended with extra levels and roof space. But, of course, the area still has its old-world charm from when it was the centre of the world’s trading. So, all in all, there’s quite a mix of building styles, each with its own character.
The station’s twin towers, overlooking the Thames, are Grade II listed and are the only original features still visible, but they give a taste of what the station once looked like.
Here are a few more buildings with a little of their histories.
Adelaide House – this is on the northeast side of London Bridge. When this was built in the mid-1920s, it was the tallest building in London and the first in the City of London to be built using the then-new steel framework technique. The building inherits its name from the former Adelaide Hotel, which stood here previously, and it was named in honour of Queen Adelaide and King William IV, who himself had the road leading up to the bridge named in his honour.
Winchester Wharves – these are two connected buildings built in the early 1800s as warehouses. They are painted in a Flemish style and sit on the south bank in Southwark in the shadows of Cannon Street Railway Bridge. So named no doubt due to their proximity to the medieval ruins of Winchester Palace nearby. The Palace has a rich and exciting history as the London home of the Bishop of Winchester, who profiteered from sex workers in the 14th century. This excellent article by ‘A London Inheritance’ is well worth a read.
No. 1 London Bridge – this view is taken from the station platform, and although I’ve presented it here in black and white, the building is instantly recognisable for two things. First, its pink granite exterior and secondly, its corner cut out. However, I have intentionally framed this shot to capture the station signage welcoming you to London – albeit abridged here to invite you to COME TO LONDON.
7a Laurence Pountney Hill – the street/alley is named after Laurence Pountney church which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. This shot through its gates showcases the beautifully manicured gardens on the grounds of a 17th-century merchant’s house with London’s high-rise buildings as a backdrop. Read more about this house from the City of London Archaeological Trust’s website by Nick Holder and Christopher Phillpotts.
Martin Lane – the lane runs down from Monument to Lower Thames Street, and this upward shot capturing pub signs and a clock with a scaffolding backdrop indicates London’s building diversity. The pub building was originally a merchant’s house with smuggling connections with reports of a tunnel down to the river’s edge, but of course, no longer there. So instead, the pub promotes itself as being ‘…the oldest in the City, one of only a few buildings in the area which survived The Great Fire of London. With its smuggling trade history, it is where charm and character collide with a Spanish, Portuguese and South American flavour…’
Picture of the Day – John Mannell
I had a brilliant encounter with the gifted photographer John Mannell. We bumped into each other doing our own thing down Bush Lane on the side of the station. I was taking some shots of fake windows on the corner of Suffolk Lane, and John was waiting to finish a commercial photoshoot in nearby offices. We chatted for a while, and John explained how he has used photography to overcome mental health issues. He now captures a portrait shot of random people each day and promotes his work through Instagram as portrait_per_day. So go check him out and say hi!
Why am I sharing this? Because he chose me as his random person on this day, and this is the shot he took which he has kindly allowed me to use for my own publicity. Thank you, John. It would have been rude not to reciprocate, and this montage shows the photographer at work and the smile behind the lens.
It was a great moment, and it’s what makes this ‘end of the line’ experience so thrilling. It was wonderful to meet you, John.
- Location: Laurence Poutney Hill
- Date/Time: Monday 10th May 2021 3:59 pm
- Settings: Camera – Mobile Phone; Aperture – ƒ2; Shutter Speed – 1/60; Focal Length – 3.88mm; Film Speed – ISO116
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